There’s one thing I want to make clear from the start: I do not make my client’s decisions for them. I’ve got plenty of my own to make and it’s their responsibility to make their own.
That said, I do act as a guide in the decision-making process WITH my clients, acting as a sounding board at times, and others offering steps to go through to determine what their answer or outcome should be. Salespeople decide whether their customers are worthwhile - a good fit in other words - and from there you ACT.
The same can be said for someone deciding on a company they might want to work for, or a position they may want to rise to. You investigate the entire opportunity, the people you will be working with, their function in relation to you, how well they communicate, any problems you might foresee, and so on. As much as a client or a company vets you, you should also be evaluating them.
So what goes into effective decision-making once you’ve decided to move forward?
Assuming you’ve done your homework, and have made an educated decision, you have to commit to making it work. And what “making it work” often means is allowing yourself a little patience to develop the tools and relationships needed for a successful outcome. For our purposes here, let’s stick with the decision to work with a particular client.
No one walks into a relationship thinking that they will be immediately happy and comfortable and know the other person or company inside and out. It takes time, and a whole lot of patience. As much research you can do still won’t give you the reality of day in and day out working with the people you need to in order to conduct business. There will be surprises, some of them not so great.
Learn from any mistakes you make and be patient - you’re looking at the longterm, after all, not just into next week. You’ve made the initial decision to work with this company, so it’s up to you to make it a lasting and successful partnership; you’ll have missteps, but if the company is also looking at things for the longterm, they will also have patience with their eyes on a larger goal.
Hand in hand with patience is honesty. You’re building trust over the longterm, and honesty is absolutely essential to making everything work. It’s also less exhausting when you’re up front about concerns you have, or areas you may not have strengths in that a company may be asking of you. Overall people appreciate a straight answer, and will trust your answers when you promise to deliver.
Gathering Your Team
Find the people in your company, and of the company you will be working with if you are acting as a contractor or outside resource, who can give you information to perform your job, and keep your promises. This means honesty again - require it of anyone you work with. You don’t need “yes men” if the information won’t be correct; that simply is a recipe for disaster and mistrust. Encourage everyone on your team to communicate openly and with a spirit of servanthood and generosity when it comes to sharing information and resources. That’s what a strong team does - serve a goal, not themselves.
It’s good to have a review of how things are going, and to gather that team you’ve assembled to bring their honesty and ideas to assess the results. Certainly you can bring reports and data with you to look at the numbers, but don’t forget the other facets of the company that also played into your initial decision to work with them in the first place. Less quantitative things like philosophy, personality and culture are just as important. If your instincts are telling you that what seemed good on paper isn’t so good in reality, be honest and be ready to discuss where you feel things might be falling short.
Two things could happen in this case: your client is enlightened to a situation or process they may not have realized was causing a problem and you both work to remedy the situation, or you may mutually decide that your partnership needs to change or dissolve altogether. While the second option isn’t what anyone looks for, it allows you to part ways in a constructive and amicable way. This company may at some point recommend you to another client as they’ve gotten to know you - a perfect “one door closes and another opens” scenario.
I must say a number of my clients come to me while in this part of the process. They’re in a company, or represent a company that simply isn’t a good fit, and they feel stuck. It’s in these circumstances where having a good coach that isn’t a part of the situation can really help you assess the situation and make wise decisions to move away from it, while still leaving things in a positive light.
And when you leave, remember the lessons you learned. In other words, don’t jump to the next opportunity without beginning the vetting process all over again. I was once offered a position for $250,000 per year. Sounds great, right? Well, I began to ask questions - lots of them, incorporating that spirit of patience I talked about at the beginning. It turned out the company offered no product training, no sales manager, they just wanted to get orders without having to put any effort into it. It was a recipe for disaster, and I said no, thank you.
So, the process of decision-making is constant - we make thousands of decisions everyday - but it doesn’t have to be a source of stress. Often these cross-roads, be they small or rather impactful, yield much better outcomes when they’re approached thoughtfully. Our attitude should be open-minded, willing to learn, and most importantly, willing to be wrong at times, and move on from those situations a little smarter, while still retaining the respect of the people you have worked with.